Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 reviewed

Replacing paper is one of the big deals with the Galaxy Note, as the S Pen — as Samsung calls it — is supposed to make it possible for you to do your work on your phone, turning your mobile into not just a calendar, not just a phone, not just a web surfing miracle machine, but a note taking gadget for when you need to get stuff done.

That’s one of the main reasons for this range of phones to exist, and with the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung hopes to put an end to your love of pen and paper diaries for good.

Will it work, and does this big phone pack enough of a punch to make you forget about paper once and for all?

First thing’s first, let’s get the good, and brilliant, and awesome out of the way, and if our enthusiasm hasn’t let us get the better of ourselves, we need to tell you about the screen, because it is all of those adjectives, and then some.

For Samsung’s first foray into WQHD technology, also known as 1440p in some circles, the company has embraced AMOLED with some interesting use of adaptive display technology. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this resolution, and it won’t be the last, as LG has previously touted the use of the resolution as being better for eyes than Apple’s “Retina” resolution, which claims that the level of 300 pixels per inch is the area where our eyes can no longer see the difference.

Back when LG announced its G3 with a Retina busting 534, it claimed that its PPI count was even better, and more akin to print productions of text and image, and therefore better again.

In the Galaxy Note 4, that is precisely the benchmark Samsung is aiming for, and based on what we’ve seen achieves it with flying colours.

It’s interesting, because even though the Note 4 loses a few pixels in the clarity count due to size differences (515ppi), the screen on the Galaxy Note 4 feels clearer on the eyes, and exhibits none of the brief moment of jaggies that LG’s equivalent screen on the G3 produces.

We’re not sure why, but Samsung seems to have nailed the formula a little better, and our eyes adjust to this display so quickly that there are no moments where it feels your eyes mislead, and there are no moments where you feel the need to turn away for seeing something too sharp.

Simply put, this is a brilliant screen, and it’s one of those displays that you won’t want to put down, but display quality is only one part of the equation, and there’s some extra power we need to talk about, because it feels like Samsung has come up with a solution for looking at your phone under the sun.

From what we understand, it’s called adaptive mode, and the technology essentially takes advantage of a light sensor on the front of the phone to work out when the phone is being bombarded by so much light that you must obviously be out in the bright light of the sun.

When that happens, the phone pulls from a reservoir of power that you can’t seem to access normally — we tried: it’s not in the screen brightness settings that are normally provided to you — and boosts the brightness to a level that makes viewing of that ultra sharp screen possible even in the harsh light of an Aussie sun.

To say we’re impressed would be an understatement, because the Note 4 fires on all cylinders when this happens, pushing out an immense amount of light, and making the phone almost glow. We’re not using the word “glow” in a glib way either, because when you pull the phone back into shade, you get a brief moment to see that ultra bright mode force its way out when it doesn’t need to, just before the phone catches up to the fact that you no longer need that awesome amount of power.

But there’s more to a smartphone than just a screen, and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 has more going for it.

For starters, it feels good in the hands, even though it’s a little thicker than the last iteration, and the body isn’t made totally from a premium material like we normally prefer.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: premium materials matter. That said, the Note 4 isn’t a totally plastic phone, not like the Galaxy S5, with a metal trim that provides a nice accented shiny edge and a rigid frame that we’ve long wanted in a Samsung product.

The back is a return to that fake fabric Samsung seems to like, and while there are no dimples like on the S5, you have fake leather on the back just like the Note 3. Thankfully, there is no fake stitching on the back — we’re not sure who Samsung was trying to fool last time — and this feels more natural, even though it’s obvious to everyone that this is plastic.

That said, the plastic does one thing metal and glass handsets fail to do: it makes the Galaxy Note 4 easier to grip, as the textured back tells you that you’re holding something, and even feels premium in the process.